Nigeria signs agreements with Afreximbank, NSIA, BoI to develop Special Economic Zones

Nigeria’s Federal Government today signed investment agreements with three Development Finance Institutions; Afreximbank, Bank of Industry and the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) for the development of special economic zones in the country.

And with the signing, President Muhammadu Buhari, who presided over the ceremony at the Council Chambers of the Aso Rock Villa, declared the investment company in the special economic zones will become operational.

“Today, we are here to witness the signing of investment agreements, following which the Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited will become fully operational,” he said.

The Federal Government set up NSEZCO Limited as a vehicle for participating in Public-Private Partnerships involving Federal and State governments and local and foreign private investors to develop new Special Economic Zones all over the country, offering world class infrastructure and facilities at competitive costs. The projects in the pilot phase include Enyimba Economic City, Funtua Cotton Cluster and Lekki Model Industrial Park.

The three DFIs are among the five to partner with NSEZCO and the Ministry of Finance Incorporated. NSEZCO intends to raise at least US$500million in equity over the first five years in order to execute its ambitious strategy of becoming a leading investor in special economic zones in the country. The other investment partners are African Development Bank (AfDB) and Africa Finance Corporation (AFC).

Called Project MINE (Made in Nigeria for Exports) the development of special economic zones under the direct supervision of President Muhammudu Buhari, is a Presidential special priority intervention aimed using the zones to attract substantial foreign and domestic investment for the development of world-class facilities dedicated to export-oriented manufacturing in a range of industries across Nigeria.

Project MINE seeks to position Nigeria as the pre-eminent manufacturing hub in sub-Saharan Africa and as a major exporter of made in Nigeria goods and services regionally and globally; as well as boosting manufacturing’s share of Gross Domestic Product to 20 per cent; generating $30bn in annual export earnings; and creating 1.5 million new jobs all by 2025.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, President Buhari said the Federal Government set up the Nigeria SEZ Investment Company Limited as a vehicle for participating in Public Private Partnerships involving Federal and State governments and local and foreign private investors to develop new Special Economic Zones all over the country. He said, the projects in the pilot phase include Enyimba Economic City, Funtua Cotton Cluster and Lekki Model Industrial Park.

The President said, the Federal Government is implementing a comprehensive plan including: “The invitation of experienced Special Economic Zone developers and operators to partner with us to upgrade the Federal Government owned Free Trade Zones in Calabar and Kano, to offer world class standards of infrastructure and facilities. Whilst we await the completion of the process of bringing in these investors, the Federal Executive Council has approved the award of contracts in excess of N19.45 billion for the needed investment in Calabar and Kano Free Trade Zones and work is currently ongoing. This is the highest amount of capital investment ever in the history of these zones.

He said: “We have allocated substantial funds to upgrade the capabilities of our people and the systems in the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority to strengthen it as a regulator of our Special Economic Zones; and

“We are allocating substantial resources to the provision of “outside the fence” infrastructure to ensure that our Special Economic Zones are connected to global, regional and domestic markets.

“We are reviewing our incentive framework to ensure competitiveness relative to the other countries with whom we are in the race to attract export oriented global manufacturing investment.”

He added that the Federal Government will extend the early successes achieved in Ease of Doing Business to the areas critical to globally competitive export-oriented manufacturing operations.

He thanked the investment partners for their “strong demonstrations of support for the important initiative.”

Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, whose ministry, Industry, Trade and Investment is implementing Project MINE, recalled President Buhari’s choice for special economic zones to hasten industrial development and the mandate to the ministry to attract investors to participate in the project.

“This is the reason we are here today. The investors have all agreed to partner with us,” he confirmed.

He said the initial projects such as the Enyimba Economic City are underway, while feasibility study is going on in eight states.

The signing of the agreement was done by Professor Benedict Oramah, President of Afreximbank; My Kayode Pitan, Managing Director of Bank of Industry and Mr. Uche Orji, Managing Director of NSIA.

Mr. Femi Edun, a director of NSEZCO and Dr Bakari Wadinga, Director, Ministry of Finance Incorporated, signed on behalf of the company.

Speaking separately, they all thanked the Federal Government for the opportunity to participate in the project and said they are happy to be partners because they believe in it and are confident of its success.

Project MINE seeks to aid structural transformation of the Nigerian economy by increasing the manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP to 20% by 2025;

It also seeks to contribute to sustainable inclusive growth by creating 1.5 million new direct manufacturing jobs in the initial phase of Project MINE.

Other objectives are:
· to Increase and diversify foreign exchange earnings to at least US$30bn annually by 2025, by increasing manufacturing sector exports;
· to Create local models of global best practice in provision of world class infrastructure at competitive costs connecting SEZs to international and regional markets with transport links, uninterrupted power, ICT, water, sewage and other services to ensure smooth and efficient operation of SEZ businesses;
· to Promote the “cluster” effect to be gained by locating similar export-oriented manufacturing businesses within the same locality;
· Attract world class investors with strong positions in global supply chains and investors with potential to increase the scale of operations rapidly to set up operations in SEZs; and
·Create an enabling environment for SEZ businesses by instituting best in class legal and regulatory frameworks, using technology and streamlined processes to facilitate movement of people, goods and capital and easy access to government services, approvals and permits

Jeff Bezos accuses tabloid National Enquirer of blackmail

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and world’s richest man,  on Thursday accused the publisher of the National Enquirer of blackmail after it threatened to publish intimate photographs sent by the billionaire to his mistress if he did not cease his investigation into how the newspaper got the pictures.

It comes after the tabloid, having accessed private text messages, last month reported Bezos had an extramarital affair with former news anchor and entertainment reporter Lauren Sanchez — a leak that led to his divorce.

In a post on blogging platform Medium Thursday, Bezos said Enquirer publisher American Media Inc (AMI), led by David Pecker, approached him with a threat to publish the photos if he did not halt an investigation into the motives behind the leak.

He added the publication demanded he and security consultant Gavin de Becker, who is leading the probe, publically state they had “no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.”

De Becker mentioned in a recent Daily Beast interview that “strong leads point to political motives” — and that he was interested in Lauren Sanchez’s brother Michael, a vocal supporter of US President Donald Trump with links to his inner circle, as a possible perpetrator.

And in his Medium post, Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, pointed to AMI and David Pecker’s previous cooperation with Trump — including payments made to suppress negative stories, currently under investigation by federal prosecutors. One involves a woman who said she had an affair with Trump.

The hush money payment, and a similar one to another woman, was made on the eve of the 2016 election that Trump won. Trump is suspected of campaign finance violations because of the disbursements on grounds they were made to affect the outcome of the vote and should therefore have been reported to government campaign monitors.

Bezos, his newspaper and Amazon are all regular targets of Trump’s signature Twitter tirades.

Bezos also raised the publisher’s links to Saudi Arabia — whose Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused of directing the murder of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

“My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos wrote in the blog post.

“President Trump is one of those people, obvious by his many tweets. Also, The Post’s essential and unrelenting coverage of the murder of its columnist Jamal Khashoggi is undoubtedly unpopular in certain circles.”

He added: “Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten,” Bezos wrote in the post, which was entitled “No thank you, Mr. Pecker” and included copies of emails from AMI.

“Of course I don’t want personal photos published, but I also won’t participate in their well-known practice of blackmail, political favours, political attacks, and corruption. I prefer to stand up, roll this log over, and see what crawls out,” he added.

*Read Bezos response to National Enquirer in  Medium.com

Why Nigeria needs technology to bridge digital divide

Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry said on Thursday that Nigeria needed to embrace technology to bridge the digital divide.

Mr Adetokunbo Kayode, the President of the Chamber, said this in Abuja during the closing ceremony of 120 youths in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) vocational skills training organised by the chamber.

“Sadly, technology has left scores of people behind, mostly in developing countries.

“We need to embrace technology to bridge the digital divide especially responding to growth opportunities and anticipating underlying skill shortages, are critical if we are to prepare a workforce of the future,’’ he said.

Kayode said that in the last two decades, the ICT sector had introduced the most powerful modern tools for development.

He said that the centre developed by the chamber would go a long way to deal with the challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality in the country.

Kayode said that the centre would also serve as the engine for developing entrepreneurs and transforming Abuja into a competitive business hub, and by extension, the rest of Northern Nigeria.

“The centre will promote, encourage innovation and furthermore provide the required quality of service while developing the digital economy.

“The participants have been trained in system administration, graphic design, digital marketing, web design, web application development and photography.

“They are the first of the 1,000 people that will be undertaking a similar journey over the next 10 months on other trades and vocation with focus on agriculture and construction skills,’’ he said.

Kayode assured the participants that skills acquired from the programme would enable them to successfully pursue their dreams against all odds.

“I am proud to inform you that we have developed a freelance services marketplace application called the “WEFITWORK”.

“WEFITWORK is an application that will connect all the participants willing to offer their services to customers in Abuja for now,’’ he said.

He said that in the next few months, the centre would start the training of civil servants who were preparing to retire.

Prof. Adesoji Adesugbe, Vice President ICT/Provost of ACCI Best Centre said that youth skill acquisition would create value that would enable the country to achieve its goals.

Adesugbe said that with the growing rate of the country’s population more attention should be geared toward skills acquisition.

He said that Nigeria added almost five million new citizens to its population every year which implied  that in another 20 years it would double.

“The growing population, if not appropriately managed may turn to be a nightmare if we do not activate real workable plans to create economic activities to educate and build needed skills to feed the job market.

“The economy will also create value, house and feed our people and provide good health facilities for all.

US campaigns against Huawei’s 5G Mobile Network, Germany decides

The United States has embarked on a mission to convince European allies not to buy Huawei 5G mobile network equipment, a U.S. State Department official said on Tuesday.

After meetings with the European Commission and the Belgian government in Brussels, U.S. officials are set to take a message to other European capitals that the world’s biggest telecommunications gear maker poses a security risk, said the official, who declined to be named.

“We are saying you need to be very, very cautious and we are urging folks not to rush ahead and sign contracts with untrusted suppliers from countries like China,” the official said.

The United States fears China could use the equipment for espionage – a concern that Huawei Technologies Co. says is unfounded. The push to sideline Huawei in Europe, one of its biggest markets, is likely to deepen trade frictions between Washington and Beijing.

Washington is using “multiple tracks”, the U.S. official said, including talks at the U.S.-led NATO alliance in Brussels and at international conferences in Barcelona and Munich: “Europe is definitely where we see this as the top priority.”

Huawei gear is widely used in Europe but the push is aimed at equipment for the new fifth generation mobile technology, which promises to link up everything from vehicles to factories at far greater speeds.

Meanwhile, the German cabinet will hold a secret session on Wednesday to discuss safeguard measures regarding the possible participation of China’s Huawei Technologies in building Germany’s 5G network, the daily Handelsblatt said, citing government sources.

Wednesday’s meeting will focus on whether a security catalogue, prepared by the Federal Network Agency and the cyber defense agency (BSI), along with certification rules and a no-spy agreement with China, will be enough to ensure future 5G mobile networks are safe, the paper said.

The session, to be held after the regular cabinet meeting, and attended by the German foreign, interior, economy, finance, and transport ministers, will discuss measures proposed last week by Deutsche Telekom to safeguard national security, the paper said.

On Tuesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany needed guarantees that Huawei would not hand over data to the Chinese state before the telecoms equipment supplier can participate in building its 5G network

ASUU strike: What I will do when I become president – Atiku

The presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar, has assured the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, that he will end the lingering strike from his first day at work, if elected the next president of the country.

Atiku made this disclosure in Lagos, Sunday evening, at the Silverbird Man of the Year event.

The former Vice President, lamenting about the ASUU strike, described it as disgraceful.

He stressed that the ASUU, students and lecturers would receive his first attention as president if voted into office in the February 16 presidential election.

He said “I am aghast that as I speak, our students across the nation are not being educated due to the ASUU strike caused by an unresolved debate of about N60 billion.

“If I get the job I am seeking, my first task on day one – along with naming my cabinet – will be to end this disgraceful strike and get our students back to their studies.

“I will also triple the amount the Nigerian government spends on education from 7 per cent of its budget today, not just to the 15 per cent recommended by UNESCO, but to 20 per cent.

“I recognise the value education can bring to the individual and the nation. But even more than that, I want every child in Nigeria to have the opportunities I had.”

Davido reacts to comparison with Wizkid over 02 Arena concert

Popular Nigerian Singer, Davido has joined the likes of Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Wizkid as he sold out his show at O2 Arena, London.

Davido with this new feat becomes the second African Artist to sell out the O2.

Recall that Wizkid was the first African artist to record a sold out show in June 2018.

The ‘Fall’ crooner has since stirred reactions online following his new feat, even as some fans compared him to Wizkid.

But, Davido reacting to comparison on his Twitter page wrote: “You all can stop arguing now, it is not about who did it first or who did it alone without help.

“We sha don do am Wetin you don do? ”

Also in a viral video, Davido credited his inspiration to sell out the O2 Arena from his “brother” Wizkid.

Three Nigerian robotic teams set for international competitions

Three winners have emerged from the robotic yearly First Lego League (FLL) Nigeria National Championship hosted by Base University, Abuja.
The competition, which hosted 600 pupils of ages nine to 16, had Team AI Squad from Hillside School, Abuja won the first-place Champion’s Award; team Federal Government College (FGC), Odogbolu, Ogun State, won the second place, while Team Glistobots, from Glisten International Academy, Abuja, won the third place.

The top three teams will represent Nigeria at international tournaments including the World robotic festival at Houston, Texas and International Open Championships in Turkey, Lebanon, Australia and Uruguay.

FLL was formed in 1988 by First and the Lego group for children between nine to 16-year-old to increase interest in science and technology, teach them valuable career and give life skills.

This year’s challenge “Into Orbit season”, which was judged in the areas of project, robot design, and core values, which embody aspects of teamwork and good sportsmanship, requires the teams to research and present creative solutions to the real-world.

Speaking on the Initiative, Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, said Nigeria has come of age to participate at the world stage in any competition and have shown that they have all it takes to compete at global stage.

“The contribution is well acknowledged and the results of this effort will surely enhance study of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) in Nigeria”, he said.

Progamme Coordinator, Olajide Ademola Ajayi, advised students to embrace innovation and critical thinking, while pursuing skills relevant in the future work place.

Ajayi said the future of work has changed, hence “FLL is a powerful experiential learning program through which students learn grit and perseverance in preparation for overcoming future challenges and making wise decisions in life outside robotics.

It instills and fuels passion for learning new skills and gaining new knowledge in readiness for the future of work.”

Director, Technology and Science Education Department, Federal Ministry of Education, Elizabeth Adedigba, said that STEAM is very crucial in the development of any nation.

According to her, capacity building is germane to determining the way the pendulum of development of any nation will swing in the next decade.

“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to well-meaning Nigerian and other well-wishers of the education to support this initiative of setting the pace for our future generation,” she added.

The tournament is supported by SAP, Irish Aid, NAPPS and was organised in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education (Nigeria).

The event is organised annually by Coderina, a not-for-profit organisation that leverages technology tools and computing pedagogy to foster an ecosystem of students and teachers well-grounded in applicability of computing, coding and problem solving techniques.

Edo begins teachers’ training on coding


Edo State  Government has commenced the training of teachers in public secondary schools on information communication technology (ICT) with Governor Godwin Obaseki charging the teachers to embrace his administration’s reforms in the education sector.

Obaseki gave the charge in Benin, at the official flag-off ceremony of a three-month ICT training, organised for public secondary school teachers by the Post-primary Education Board (PPEB), in collaboration with Azeessworld Technology Ltd.

The governor, who was represented at the event by the Commissioner for Education, Emmanuel Agbale, said, “the state government will continue to develop the competence and capacity of public-school teachers, through training and retraining, so as to better position them for the discharge of their duties.” 

He maintained that teachers, at all levels, remain the primary concern of his administration, and assured, “all policies being implemented in the education sector are designed for the benefit of the students as well as teachers, who are drivers of the ongoing reforms.

“This government believes in developing our teachers. We believe the Edo teacher is the best anywhere in the world, and we will continue to train and retrain them on best teaching practices,” he assured.

Earlier, the Chairman of Post-primary Education Board (PPEB), Gabriel Oiboh, said “the three months training will help bridge the gap between teachers trained in an era when ICT was not available and their students born in the digital era driven by ICT.”

He emphasised that the training aligns with the scientific approach of the current administration to governance, as demonstrated by its adoption of ICT-driven reforms, especially in the education sector. 

He commended the governor for his passion for result-oriented reforms in the education sector and noted that 500 teachers and over 130,000 students of public schools were earlier trained on coding at the ICT centre.

In his goodwill message, the representative of All Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPSS), Evbayayiro Taye, commended the governor and the board’s chairman for their passion for education reforms which he said have transformed the sector and equipped the Edo teacher to be abreast of best practices in the teaching profession.

Meanwhile, the state government has urged unemployed youths in the state to check for new job vacancies published every week, on Tuesday and Thursday, in the state’s newspaper, The Nigerian Observer.

Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the governor on Job Creation and Skills Development, Mrs. Ukinebo Dare, made the disclosure in a chat with newsmen, in Benin the state capital.

Federal Government considering to privatize Ajaokuta steel plant amid opposition


The Federal Government may have made up its mind to privatise the multi-million Naira Ajaokuta Steel Plant located in Kogi State despite opposition by a section of the nation’s economic intelligentsia.
Minister of State for Mines and Steel Development, Mr. Abubakar Bawa Bwari explained that the decision to privatise the plant, believed to be more than 90 per cent completed, was due to the fact that government had proven to a bad manager, given past experience. Bwari, who gave the hint in Abuja yesterday while presenting the ministry’s three years scorecard, said 11 core investors had submitted bids for the purchase of the plant and the government was reviewing the applications with a view to picking a competent firm with vast technical and financial war chest because of the important place steel industry occupies in a country’s development.

“In Nigeria, we have proven beyond doubt that government is a bad manager and has no business to be in business. For instance, we have mismanaged many companies in the past like the Nigerian Railway Corporation, Nigerian Airways, Nigerian Telecommunications Limited, even the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) that is wobbling.

“We will not take that risk. That is why we will hand over Ajaokuta Steel Plant to a private company that has enough funds and technical capacity to turn it around for the benefit of everyone. We would prefer to have a Nigerian company with this capacity to manage it because there is a lot of international steel politics because of the strategic roles steel plays in the advancement of countries,” the minister said. He declined to name the investors bidding for the plant.

One of the critics of privatisation of the Ajaokuta plant, Mr. Enwegbara, a development economist, described the government’s decision as selfish and part of assets stripping on the eve of the country’s general election.He said the government could borrow more locally and internationally.

“This administration cannot embark on sale of a key strategic asset like Ajaokuta Steel Plant when it has less than a year to the end of its tenure. It should wait until after the elections, if it wins again, then it can do that. Besides, the executive lacks the power to sell such a critical national asset without the approval of the legislature which, I am aware, is making efforts to revitalize the plant.

“Another concern is that if the complex is sold under any name, it will be given away after the government’s over $30 billion investment in it. Let them look for money elsewhere to fund the budget. They cannot sell a key national asset like that to fund one fiscal budget. What happened to the recovered loot ?” he asked, insisting that the government stands to gain more by revitalising the plant than selling it.

A top management staff contacted on the development yesterday said the complex remained the bedrock of the nation’s industrial growth. He implored the Federal Government to “fund the plant and manage it with capable manpower instead of selling it because previous experience shows that with better manpower and funding , the plant can work.”

“If this plant is not profitable, why are the Indian investors that were sacked from here are still contending the matter. Let the current administration be careful so that we don’t play into the hands of our enemies who don’t want us to be self-reliant.”

The experience with some of the steel rolling mills should teach us a lesson. Some of them are now just warehouses and the supposed investors are busy stripping the assets. We need to be careful because Ajaokuta remains the elixir for Nigeria’s development.”

The Guardian’s findings revealed that a recent audit conducted by the Ajaokuta Steel Complex showed 95.7 percent erection readiness with a reactivation and completion requirement standing at $652 million

The Sole Administrator, Sumaila Abdul-Akaba, while submitting the technical audit report recently to Bwari, expressed his happiness over the renewed vigour by the Federal Government to move the steel plant project forward.He said the internal technical audit which was conducted on the facilities of the plant between February and April 2018 was an updated version of the last technical evaluation done in 2010 by M/S Reprom Nigeria Ltd.

The chief executive officer explained to the minister that the technical audit was carried out by the seasoned engineers, technicians and other professionals of the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited.

The Ajaokuta plant was envisioned to take full advantage of the ECOWAS treaty and the export expansion scheme of the Federal Government to widen its market base to the whole of the West African Sub-region and beyond through the production of quality steel and steel products for the industrialization of Nigeria while meeting all standards

Lagos Gubernatorial debate: Sanwo-Olu’s fact check

The claim by the ruling All Progressives Congress Lagos state governorship candidate, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, that Lagos state is the only Nigerian state that publishes its budget on a yearly and quarterly basis is untrue.

Sanwo-Olu made the claim during a debate organised by The Platform, a civil engagement unit of the Covenant Christian Center, on Sunday.

“I think Lagos state is the only one of the states that publish its budget on year on year basis,” Sanwo-Olu said.

The governorship candidate was responding to a question to know if he would grant requests filed under the Freedom of Information Act for public expenditure to be made completely.

The Lagos State government is renowned for ignoring FOI request on its activities from journalists and civil society organisations.

The Freedom of Information Act was signed into law in 2011 by former President Goodluck Jonathan to make public records more easily accessible to the people.

But various state governments had continued to argue that the law requires to be similarly passed by their houses of assemblies.

After a series of checks, The Guardian can report that Sanwo-Olu’s assertion is wrong on two fronts.

First, Lagos State only publishes summaries of its budget on the website. These summaries do not provide details of government spending plans. It is the opaque nature of these documents that have prompted civic tech organisation BudgIT to file a Freedom of Information request on the state to disclose the details of its spending on education between 2015 and 2018.

BudgIT sent another FOI request asking for the “details of the Ikeja Bus Terminal and details of the contracts awarded by the Lagos State Government between May 2015 to May 2018,” to Lagos State commissioner for works and infrastructure Ade Akinsanya.

But the state turned down those requests in spite of a court of Appeal ruling on March 27, 2018, that the FOI Act is applicable to all states in the country.

In fact, the state is notorious for not honouring FOI Act, especially if it has to do with opening up its books.

Second, the claim by Sanwo-Olu that only Lagos State publishes its budget is also untrue. Kaduna State, at least, since Nasri El-Rufai became the governor has been publishing its annual budget. In fact, the state has a dedicated website for that purpose.

Unlike sparse information that Lagos State provides in its publications, Kaduna State offers more details on its recurrent and capital expenditures.